Wednesday, October 31, 2007

America Sings

One Disneyland attraction I miss is America Sings, a tribute to American music. For the unfamiliar, it had a central stage divided into six parts. A ring of six theaters circled them, scooting around to the next stage for each act.
I never tired of it. The characters (designed by animator Marc Davis) were cute. Even bit characters, like the Boothill Vultures and the donkeys have personality. Well animated too*, considering this was early seventies technology. It had a real cartoony feel. Characters and props pop out of nowhere. Or drop into place. Storks ride bicycles. A horse drives a car. Geese dance the CanCan. In my opinion, the show is more sophisticated and well crafted than some of the newer Disney attractions.
That being said, the weasel does get annoying.

*this video was shot towards the end of the show's run, and a few characters are broken or missing. For example, in the "Goin' South" section, you'll see the geese turn and look at a barrel. That's where a fourth goose once stood. He'd already been moved to a new gig as a Star Tours robot. Most of the other characters were recast in the Splash Mountain attraction in 1991.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

The Divider

"What's that?" my preschool-aged self pointed to what looked like a pull down door in the middle of the back seat of my Dad's car.
"That's the divider. It cuts the back seat in two," Mom said.

I dared not open it. I thought it would unleash a ferocious set of mechanical jaws. They'd chomp the seat, and possibly me, in half!

Months (possibly years) later I summoned the courage to face the beast. The stumpy block of upholstery that swung in place was something of a let down.

Friday, October 26, 2007

First Anniversary!

This silly blog is one years old today!
The odd picture is a satire of on an infamous local painting which I discussed in my first post, Ghost of the Pink Lady. It was one of several posts where I compared then and now photos, warping the modern one so it lined up exactly with the historical one. Other examples include Sixty Years Ago Today and Crime and the Scary water.
Many early posts were snarky and satirical. I goofed on Thomas Kinkcade , Bumper Stickers and frivolous Sharper Image gadgets. I posted pics of garishly painted buildings and demanded to know why anyone would paint their house that color.
Soon cartoons replaced the photos and composites and the blog became more autobiographical, perhaps even self absorbed. Early examples include Rant of the Ant (drawn with a mouse) and Nothing is Certain but Death and Crackers (an early tablet p.c. drawing.)
Then came the Drawing Board and the Martians...
I was newly unemployed when I started this blog. I'd planned to point out that now I'm up to my neck in work. A "wow, I've come a long way" observation. Then I found out I was soon to be unemployed again. I've come full circle. I'm sure I'll eventually find something else. Until then, more time for me to work on Tail o' The Rat.
Special thanks to loyal readers Ghostbuild and Sally. You make it all the more rewarding.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Fire (October, 1982)

These fires bring back memories.
I've never been evacuated. My house hasn't burned, but both  almost happened in 1982.
I was thirteen and lived in a semi rural part of Orange County. One Saturday morning, I glanced away from the television. Everything had an orange tint, like a big glass of Tang  was filtering the sun. I went outside to investigate.
A wall of smoke blotted out the eastern sky. Flames twinkled on a hill, four miles away. The smoke flowed in my direction. Would the fire follow?
"I wouldn't worry," my Dad said. "It doesn't look that big. But you can bring a few things if want to be safe." We were going to Redondo Beach that day to help with a family yard sale. My folks brought along some important paperwork, documents and photo albums. I packed my plush walrus (my favorite childhood toy). Just to be safe. The fire probably wouldn't spread.
But it did. As we sold plates, glasses and knickknacks from card tables, the radio kept blurting about the fire. It was getting bigger. It was threatening homes. People were on their roofs with hoses...
"Maybe we should go back and get our stuff?" I said.
"Nah," my Dad said. "First, our house probably isn't in danger, and second, if it was, they wouldn't let us go near it."
The drive back (after the sale was over), was scary. The radio babbled about the now-enormous fire and the homes it was burning.  Entire blocks were aflame.   It hadn't reached my street.  At least not yet.
   We could see the smoke as soon as we got on the freeway, even though it was over 20 miles away.
The police set up a checkpoint near our home. My folks had to show I.D. to get through. The official word:  Yes, the fire was close, but it had burned a path to the south of us and was now heading away . Unless the wind changed (The small gap between our home and the fire was clogged with dry brush), we wouldn't need to evacuate.
The wind didn't change. I remember watching flames less than a half mile away as the wind shooed them southwest (where they would do more damage). Interesting how the fate of our home stood on something as fickle as which way the wind blew.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Little Nemo vs. The Turkey

Click Little Nemo Cartoon for larger image

When overtime keeps me busy, I post other people's work.
Today's artist is Winsor McCay.
This is one of my all time favorite Little Nemo in Slumberland cartoons.
The only large version I could find online* cropped at the top and translated to French, but you can still follow the plot. A big turkey has come to fetch Nemo and bring him to Slumberland, but the plans go awry.
The pircture of the bird strutting through the city, house in beak, cracks me up. It's such a ridiculous concept, yet it's drawn realistically. The nightmare could have ended there, but there's more. A lesser artist/writer might have had Nemo land in a lake or the woods. Here he lands in a lake of cranberry sauce, surrounded by a forest of onions!
Sadly, I recently found out that all that's left of the original artwork is a ripped corner. What kind of idiot would tear something like this up?

*I have a copy of it at home in a book but I need to hook up my scanner (and I'm nervous about cracking the spine of said book)

Sunday, October 14, 2007


Unless you've worked at a tropical fish shop, (as I did from my late teens to my early twenties), you have no idea what a dirty job it is. It goes way beyond scraping algae.
My first duty each day was to do "a run", which is happytalk for "get a net and a baggie and scoop up any dead fish you find." Nothing like a baggie with smelly dead fish at the bottom to start your day.
The live food smelled worse. We kept tubs of brine shrimp, redworms and blackworms in a fridge behind the scenes. The redworms were harvested from sewage and smelled of it. The blackworms had a rusty, blood like odor. We sold worms by the ounce, so I had to scoop them into little bags with a NyQuil cup. At least the leaches that lived amongst the blackworms never attacked me.
A freezer stood near the fridge. It held frozen sea life from kelp to krill, plus cubes of beef heart and spinach. T.V. dinners for fish. It also served as a morgue for expensive fish. The official word was that they were being "preserved for an autopsy", but the truth was the owners didn't want to part with a fish that cost as much as a television, even if it didn't move. One night the freezer konked out. By the time we reopened the contents were a melted, decaying soup of slop that I had to clean up. After I cleaned it the owners decided to throw it away instead of fixing it. Thanks, guys.
The most horrifying thing was a dead sea anemone. They didn't roll over and die as fish did. They slowly dissolved into a fowl smelling, viscous globs of slime, which rose from them like glop from a lava lamp. It was like an alien bio weapon. If you scooped it out with a net, the goo would ooze through it. Siphon it out and the more meaty parts would clog the tubing. And the smell! It was a foul, evil scent that stayed with your hands the rest of the day, no matter how often you washed.
The job also involved roaches, meal worms, rats and the occasional crayfish, but I think I've made the point on how nasty it could be. Not that I regret it. It makes me appreciate my current job. Any time I feel stressed or overwhelmed I look back to my tropical fish days and I feel much better.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

The Jerk is Me

It's street parking at my place. This can be a problem when I work past 9 or 10 p.m. Most spots are taken. I usually have to park down the street or around the block, which makes me nervous because I'd be easy pickings for any mugger or murderer lurking about. Last night, however, the bad guy was me.
I wasn't trying to be a jerk. When I left the car, I noticed the end of my car jutted a foot into a curb ramp. Someone's driveway? It was maybe four feet wide and lead to what looked like a narrow walkway. There was enough room for a bike or motorcycle to maneuver around my car so I let it go. It was late, I was sleep deprived, and I wanted to get indoors before my feared murderer spotted me.
Bad decision. Next morning a dew soaked note on my windshield scolded me for blocking her driveway. Part of me felt indignant- what kind of car could fit on that thing? Does she drive a Big Wheel? I felt bad too. I imagined her (I figured this was a she because the stationary was pink, there was a "please" and there was no profanity) coming home late and sleep-deprived, hoping to get indoors before she was mugged or worse. And there some jerk has blocked her way. What kind of person would be so inconsiderate!? Some people!
I hate it when I do something rude by mistake.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Cat Snoods (circa 2002)

Click image to see 'em blink

I almost forgot about these.

Snood is a shareware puzzle game.
The characters are clumped on a descending wall. The object is to "free" them by shooting additional characters at them. A character who hits a clump of like characters causes them to fall from the wall. Any characters left when the wall hits bottom turn to skulls.
The characters are animated, cycling through two different faces.
Officially registered players can swap out the standard characters with custom ones. I submitted two graphic sets- one with cats and one with crazy fish. The cats made the cut.
My contribution to internet kitsch.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Earthling Scorpions

Click cartoon for larger image

Supporting bad behavior (or ideas) with inflated language annoys me. It was one of the reasons I left teaching.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Giant Flesh-Eating Bedbugs from Upper Flimflambia

I'm normally against spreading nonsense but I couldn't resist.
I sent this email to my coworkers:

Anyone want to start a snopes-worthy internet fib?
I say we start circulating pictures of this deep-sea pill bug (Giant Isopod),
Flimflambia Hemotophus Cimix Vicarius

With the following text:

WARNING! Giant flesh-eating bedbugs from Upper Flimflambia have been accidentally introduced to California in a banana shipment. While small enough in their larva stage to hide amongst fruit and leaves, they can grow up to a FOOT LONG! In spite of their length, they can squeeze through cracks and under doorways. In the wild they feed on sleeping herds of buffalo and zebra, but there have been three cases where they have been found IN PEOPLE'S BEDS. They hide between the mattress and the box spring by day, feeding on the blood of their victims when asleep. Talk about things that go "bump in the night!".
The National Entomological Society has these tips to keep them OUT of your house.
1. Make sure cracks under the door are tightly sealed
2. Wash sheets and blankets weekly, in hot water.
3. Patch or replace screens with holes.
4. Hang fresh cherry-scented air freshener "trees" (the kind you hang from your cars rear-view mirror) on your doorknobs and bedposts. These creatures have a strong sense of smell and are repelled by the cherry scent. Pina Colada scent is repels them too.
5. Keep a radio on at night on an A.M. dial. The sound waves bouncing off the ionosphere also repels them.


There you have it. Silly story, misuse of caps and quotation, a dangling participle, a cliche and a real photo. Beware!

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

The Future

The future was cool when I was a kid. Cars will fly! Robots! You will go to the moon!
Now it's a scary void. No guarantees of love, happiness, success. Even long term employment is a maybe in this idiot century. Nothing is certain.
Then again, I've been dreading "the future" for the last twenty years, worrying about things that.
1. Usually didn't happen
2. Or if they did happen, it wasn't the horror show I expected.
When I was in high school I worried that I'd miss it after graduation (I didn't). Same with college. I was sure my life would be over once I graduated from college and left that life behind (it wasn't). And so on. I know worrying is counterproductive. It doesn't change anything, it's a waste of time... yet I do it anyway.